Top tips: Mark Hix cooks with asparagus

With its tender green stems and delicate sweet flavour, asparagus is the finest spring vegetable of all
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I'm all for our British asparagus growers making the most of the season and trying to extend it as much as possible, and so I wasn't that surprised when I found some asparagus from Worcestershire in stock in a Tesco near me during early March. It's now time to get cracking with the British asparagus season – we have asparagus on the menu in all our restaurants and are making a big deal of it.

The advent of asparagus is one of the first signs of spring on the culinary front and apart from classic techniques such as boiling and steaming them, there are so many other fun ways to cook and serve these versatile and delicious vegetables.

Deep-fried turkey egg with asparagus

Serves 4

Clarence Court are launching turkey eggs as part of their seasonal offering, along with bantam, goose, rhea and pheasant eggs. Turkey eggs are slightly larger than duck eggs and have a lovely creamy texture.

4 turkey eggs (or duck eggs)
250-300g medium to thick asparagus with the woody ends trimmed
50g butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of plain flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Soft-boil the turkey eggs by carefully placing in simmering water for 5-6 minutes, then refresh in cold water for a few minutes (if the turkey eggs are very large you may need to give them an extra minute or so). Once cool enough to handle, peel them, ensuring you have removed all of the shell.

Have three dishes ready, one with the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, one with the beaten egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Carefully pass the eggs through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Put to one side. Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes until tender (2-3 minutes if they are thin ones), then drain in a colander.

Deep-fry the eggs for about 2-3 minutes or until golden, turning them as they are cooking, then remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen paper. Arrange the asparagus in a line on warmed serving plates, season and spoon over the melted butter and place the egg on top.

Strozzapreti with cuttlefish and asparagus

Serves 4

Down in Dorset the cuttlefish season has started, but sadly most of it gets sent out to Spain and France and very few restaurants get round to actually serving our very own native cuttlefish. I love the stuff and the other great thing about it is that it's incredibly well priced, at least for the moment. You can use any pasta really for this, but I just happened to have some strozzapreti knocking around in my cupboard, which proved perfect as it absorbs the butter and oil in its little folds.

4 servings of strozzapreti (approx 200g)
200-250g asparagus with the woody ends trimmed
160-200g cleaned weight of cuttlefish, cut into rough 1cm squares
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
60g butter
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp finely chopped parsley

Cook the strozzapreti in boiling salted water according to the manufacturer's cooking instructions, then drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water for the sauce. Slice the asparagus as thinly as possible on the angle and cook for 30-40 seconds in boiling salted water and drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter and half of the olive oil in a saucepan, season the cuttlefish and gently cook on a low heat with the garlic for 3-4 minutes, stirring as it's cooking, then add the pasta, the rest of the olive oil, asparagus and parsley and cook on a very low heat for a minute, adding a little of the cooking liquid. Remove from the heat, season and leave to stand for a couple of minutes, then add a little more of the cooking water if it's too dry and serve immediately.

Cured pork loin with sweet and sour shaved raw asparagus

Serves 4

We use Trealy Farm cured meats in the restaurant; they are based down in Monmouthshire and have a fantastic selection of artisan cured meats. Their meats are available through the River Cottage shop (

You could use another cured ham for this or even a cured beef like bresaola which Trealy also do a great version of.

16-20 slices of cured ham
200g medium asparagus with the woody stalks removed

For the dressing

2 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1tsp Tewkesbury or Dijon mustard
tbsp tomato ketchup
100ml rapeseed or olive oil
tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A few drops of Tabasco
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the dressing: put the shallots in a small saucepan with the vinegar and a tablespoon of water, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in all of the other ingredients and season lightly. If you have a mandolin, either slice the asparagus as thinly as possible lengthways or on the angle, then mix with the dressing and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes.

To serve, arrange the ham on serving plates and spoon the asparagus and dressing over.

Chicken and asparagus broth

Serves 4

This is a nice clean broth that will turn out crystal clear as long as you don't boil the hell out of it. It's best to buy ready-skinned free-range chicken thighs for this rather than breasts as they have a much better flavour and withstand longer cooking to get maximum flavour into the broth.

4 free-range chicken thighs, skinned
1.5ltrs chicken stock
6 black peppercorns
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
1 small bayleaf
A couple of sprigs of thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200-250g asparagus with the woody stems trimmed and reserved

Remove the bones from the chicken thighs and put them in a saucepan with the chicken meat and all of the other ingredients including the asparagus ends but not the asparagus itself.

Bring to the boil, skim, season and simmer very gently for 1 hour, skimming every so often. Strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan. Shred up the chicken thighs and put to one side. Cut the tips off the asparagus to about 3cm and cut in half lengthways if they are thick. Slice the rest of the asparagus thinly on the angle and add to the soup with the tips. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes, add the shredded thighs and season to taste. Serve immediately.